I'm a freelance graphic artist. I'm designing book covers and the book covers require stock images. I want to get stock images legally and have a couple of questions. Do I need to buy the stock images if only the client will see or use my design, or do I need to buy them before designing the book cover?

These are some of my designs as examples:


the whistling sands

  • I've made some edits to your original post, please make sure I haven't lost your original meaning at all.
    – Hanna
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


Traditionally stock sites allow you download a free, watermarked "comp" image which can be used in your design until the client approves the piece. Once the client has approved, you can then go back and purchase and download the non-watermarked image.

You are free to purchase and download the non-watermarked image whenever you'd like however. It's not unheard of to purchase images to use in design mock-ups before the client approves anything. This is often done so that any watermark does not taint the perception of the final design.

You'll need to read the terms of use for whatever stock site you are using. They often allow book covers without an issue but many have stipulations on the quantity of imprints you can have. Such as:

If you use the Media for printed materials, the number of copies must not exceed 500,000.

If more than 500,000 books are being printed, you'd need to look into extended licenses if you happen to use the site where this stipulation exists.

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